FOR many young men life is about getting a foot on the career ladder, having a laugh with friends and enjoying a drink and takeaway at the weekend.

But Liam Todd feared he would miss out on life’s simple pleasures - until he learnt to control his stammer on an intensive speech therapy course.

The 20-year-old, from Ferryhill, in County Durham, has always struggled to speak.

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His covert stutter meant he often got stuck on certain words so replaced them with an alternative or avoid speaking all together.

He said: “I cannot remember a time I spoke fluently.

“I felt ashamed and worried I wasn’t normal, it was a secret.

“I shied away from friends, speaking to girls, tried to hide my stutter and never showed emotions.

“I thought I was getting away with it but my parents and those who really knew me knew something was up.”

At both his schools, Dean Bank Primary and Ferryhill Business and Enterprise College, he forced himself to learn quickly so he did not have to ask for help.

He did well in his GCSEs and after school joined The McGuire Programme, a residential course on which stammerers develop techniques and face challenges to control their stutter.

With new found confidence he managed two interviews and a group exercise to land a job as an apprentice toolmaker at Gestamp Tallent, in Newton Aycliffe.

He said: “I’m really proud of that, if I hadn’t joined the programme and learnt to control my stammer I don’t know what I’d be doing now, probably something I hate.”

Tackling his stammer has also freed him to be himself and live a fuller life, which will include becoming a coach on The McGuire Programme.

“I get pleasure in simple things now, ordering a pizza, booking my own dentist appointment and ordering a drink- I could never say Desperados at the bar so drank Fosters as it was easier.

“I like getting the bus somewhere I want to go rather than the next street down, when I went to college in Durham I’d let my mates get on first then when they had their tickets say ‘same please’.

“I was always holding back but now I can be myself.”

The programme has helped singer Gareth Gates, Scotland rugby player Kelly Brown and Wet Wet Wet guitarist Graeme Duffin find their voices.

It also featured on Stammer School: Musharaf Finds His Voice, on Channel 4 last night (Thursday, August 28), with Mushy Asghar from hit television series Educating Yorkshire.